Last night we were in Paris; the night before was spent on sleeper train and the night before that we stayed in my friend Maralise’s home in beautiful Vienna. In the past month, I’ve spent only two nights in my own bed: several nights in San Diego, a few in my dad’s house in Sandy and, of course, two weeks in Europe.
It’s been a glorious trip. We laughed and photographed and walked and ATE our way through three countries. My dad has been his adventurous fun-loving self, buying bags of pastries and climbing to the top of every tower. When our evening swim was hindered by a locked gate at a Viennese pool, my dad found the best place to hop the fence and we swam and giggled and played under clear blue skies.
I can’t decide which city or place we loved most. Was it the streets of Paris, or the castles of Bavaria, or the parks in Salzburg? Perhaps it was the salt mine in Hallstatt or the garden maze in Vienna? But I know what I enjoyed most—hour upon hour, day after day of savoring time with my family. I took hundreds of shots of kids holding hands, Mary riding on her brothers’ shoulders, visiting European playgrounds and playing checkers with Grandpa Ken. I expect I can buy books and post cards of all the beautiful buildings and landscapes we saw, but the photos of my family together are priceless.
Conflicts were few and laughter was almost constant as the boys played word games, tutored each other in French (who knew Stefan spoke so well!?!) and took turns carrying Mary. We talked about my mom a lot, pointed out flowers she would love, bought souvenirs that reminded us of her and ate more chocolate and fewer vegetables than she would possibly approve of. It felt like she was with us much of the time, but she was free and uninhibited by her broken body that wouldn’t possibly be able to navigate the miles of hiking we did every day.
Although, my dad is healthy and fit, I felt newly protective of him. I’m aware of a fragility that I’ve never seen before. But his spirits are good. As we walked down picturesque streets, fulfilling our years-old dream, the entire family began to speak of other dreams. Suddenly everything felt possible. We planned future trips, gardens we would plant, books to write and illustrate and languages to learn.
Today I’m flying home with Mary in a sleeping pink ball beside me. The flight took off at 11:00 a.m. Paris time and arrives in Salt Lake City at 12:46 p.m. p.m. today. See, so it’s less than 2 hours. 😉 But truly, I’ll have plenty of time this afternoon to run several loads of laundry, stock up at the grocery store, retrieve kitty from my brother and start settling back into ‘normal life.’ But I don’t think life will ever feel normal again. Let me rephrase that—I have plenty of time to settle into my new life.
I have high hopes of becoming a better, sweeter person in every way, but I did snap at Ben in the airport this morning so perfection is still pretty far off.
My dad, of course, has a completely new life to create. He is purposely keeping himself busy for the next several months and will continue to spend much of his time in San Diego (my sister is buying a house with rooms for him in it). The rest of us will fight over him when he’s in Salt Lake– making him dinner and beating him at checkers. He is determined to be Grandma and Grandpa for his grandchildren and I’ve been given the job of gift-assistant supreme (see, I knew my shopping skills would come in handy).
This trip precluded me from planning anything else this summer. We have no camps, no trips, no lessons ahead of us. And for now, I’m happy to simply let life unfold.